The UK must look beyond its traditional allies and forge new partnerships with a crop of increasingly influential countries across Latin America, Asia and Africa, James Cleverly has said.
In his first major speech as Foreign Secretary, he argued that British diplomacy must adapt as the “centre of gravity geopolitically moves eastwards and southwards”.
The UK can play a role in ensuring those emerging economies become the custodians of the international rules-based order, he said.
Relationships built over generations with allies including the US, France, Germany, and Australia “amount to our greatest source of strength and the foundation stone of British democracy and diplomacy”.
“But that will not be enough to sustain the international order unless its principles and institutions command the support of the world beyond Europe and North America,” Mr Cleverly said.
Nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America “will decide whether the international order will endure”.
“But the point I’m also making is that we can’t just hang on to the comfort blanket perhaps of our pre-existing friendships and alliances.
“We need to work, we need to graft, we need to make sure that we’re having conversations with those countries that are also being wooed by other philosophies and we need to sell the benefits.
“We need to be salespeople and sell the benefits… about subscription to international law, about using peaceful mechanisms for dispute resolution, about moving in a direction which embraces human rights and diversity and those things which are the foundation stones of our political philosophy.
“Not necessarily in a hectoring way, but in a persuasive way over decades, because that is how we bring about change.”
Mr Cleverly called for long-term partnerships covering trade and aid, investment and expertise, and closer cultural ties, backed up by cash from UK development finance and G7 funding streams.
“The main focus of the future powers that I’m discussing is on securing their own economic development and their own resilience against threats, including climate change, from disease, from terrorism,” he said.
“In all these fields and many others, our opportunity is to show that the UK can be and will be a reliable, trustworthy and long-term partner and I am determined that we’ll make investments of faith in the countries that will shape the world’s future.”
He touted India as an example of a fast-developing economy where there is “huge opportunity”, as it has a “young, well-educated, dynamic, ambitious population,” while at the same time having “a lot at stake from things like climate change”.
“As the centre of gravity geopolitically moves eastwards and southwards, India – amongst others of course – is exactly the kind of country where it is to our mutual benefit and global benefit to work closely together,” he said.